Steve Lavin, the embroiled St. John's basketball coach on the hot seat despite another winning season and another trip to the NCAA Tournament, deserves at least one more chance to go dancing. But with the paranoia surrounding the Johnnies program, and the inflated sense of self-regard that exists with St. John’s fans and the pecking order of the basketball team in terms of national perception, Lavin’s future is in doubt.
There is currently a huge difference between where delusional St. John's alumni believe their program stands and where it actually ranks. But the glory days are gone, and Lavin should receive credit for making this program not just respectable but viable.
A buyout that amounts to firing is not the answer.
The Red Storm have disappointed this year, the critics say, this despite a 21-12 record that saw them book a trip the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011. In doing so, the program was the only prominent team from the tristate area to go to the Madness, underscoring the accomplishment of Lavin to get his team in there.
And considering that the program has made the NCAA Tournament just four times since 2000 (officially three times with the vacated appearance of 2002), St. John's should actually be talking stability for Lavin and not possible termination. With New York City prep basketball in a recent slump, Lavin's job of recruiting is made far more difficult than years ago when the area owned the deepest pool of talent in the nation.
What Lavin has done is consistently bring a winner to Madison Square Garden, something not exactly seen on the hardcourts of Manhattan in recent years. His teams may have “underachieved,” including this years group that on paper should have been a Top 25 program. But they still win more games than they lose, and that says something.
In four of their five seasons under Lavin, St. John's has had a winning record and made the postseason all of those years. In three seasons he has topped 20 wins, and while he is 1-4 in the postseason (the one win coming last year in the NIT), there's no doubt that the program has emerged from the abyss under Lavin.
In the previous seven seasons before “Lavinwood” arrived in New York City, St. John's had four seasons of losing records and they didn't have an NCAA Tournament appearance during that stretch.
He isn't the perfect coach, but he isn't Mike Jarvis or Norm Roberts. And that right there is something to be thankful for.
With a solid recruiting class coming in, highlighted by four-star recruit Brandon Sampson, a shooting guard who is a member of the ESPN 100, the cupboard isn't exactly bare around the Red Storm. Lavin has built a decent team, and he deserves at least one more year to see this thing through.
There are fans of Rutgers and Seton Hall that would love to have the problem St. John's is having right now, with four postseason berths and two tickets to the NCAA Tournament in the last five years. And that success is born from Lavin and not from the faded glory that once was the St. John's powerhouse program.